Post Writers Conference Therapy

Diagnosis – Writers Conference Fatigue

Contagion – Attending Chuckanut Writers Conference

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My first public reading.

Therapy – Exercise creativity through medium other than writing

Chosen therapy – Cook dinner

Find ingredients in the house, use creatively.

In freezer find main ingredient – Wild boar ravioli (plin) – bought at farmer’s market too long ago to remember (< six months ago).

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Garden – find fresh herbs, oregano, thyme and rosemary.

Pantry – find two cans of chopped tomatoes

Kitchen counter – find head of garlic and onion

Proceed to chop ingredients

IMG_5925Sweat onions and garlic

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Add rest of ingredients

IMG_5926Add salt, and pepper then stir, simmer for magical amount of time.

Use immersion blender to create saucy sauce.

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Boil frozen plin, then plate. Garnish with sprig of rosemary and slice of olive bread.

Post writers conference dinner. Books from local Seattle authors, Elissa Washuta, Erik Larson, Stephanie Gallos and Carol Cassella. Wine from Woodward Canyon - Walla Walla Washington.
Post writers conference dinner. Books from local Seattle authors, Elissa Washuta, Erik Larson, Stephanie Gallos and Carol Cassella. Wine from Woodward Canyon – Walla Walla Washington.

Note: The Chuckanut Writers Conference was an amazing experience. The faculty list was A plus list. I’m so happy to live in such a creatively rich place like the Pacific NW. Cheers! (With a bottle of Woodward Canyon 2013 Dolcetto)

When I was a basketball player…

My basketball team was a spectrum of skin pigmentation. What does it feel like to be multicultural? What does it feel like to be aware of diversity? All of us know – but are we courageous enough to live like we know…

The skinny and the fat

My height is an aspect about my physical appearance that I just can’t hide.

I really can’t hide.

Me, trying to make a lay up... Me, trying to make a lay up…

Not in a crowd, not in the subway, or the supermarket, nope I stick out. The only place I have traveled where I felt short was in the Netherlands. Everyone there, women included, were tall! Even the friend I was with made a comment about how I had “found my tribe.” The only problem was they were all blond haired and blue eyed and spoke a language I don’t think I could ever understand. They were not my tribe.

The places I have visited where I feel most tribal, like Peru, Bolivia, Cuba or Mexico, I don’t look like them. My 6-foot, olive skin, light brown hair and eyes, just don’t allow me to fit in. The looks I got when I spoke Spanish in…

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Road Trip with Dad and Blue Bullet

Dad and I packing my possessions into blue bullet.
Dad and I packing my possessions into blue bullet.

Blue Bullet chugged as she ascended the last few hundred feet to the summit of the Colorado Rockies. The 1985 Toyota passenger van was weighed down with my post-college graduation possessions, like books, a futon and my hot pink Vespa scooter. My dad and I were moving me from my childhood home of Chicago to my new home, 2,000 miles away in San Francisco. Blue bullet was our trusted family car for the last seven years, and dad drove her with confidence and determination, towards the summit. He knew his little engine could make it up that mountain and onwards towards San Francisco.

This side trip to the Rockies was dad’s idea. I’m pretty sure Blue Bullet didn’t want to climb these steep mountain sides with all of this extra weight, and a battery that wasn’t working quite right (more on that later). And I knew I wasn’t completely gung-ho about the extra time the side trip would add. I wanted to get to San Francisco quickly and I was afraid of unplanned adventures.

Dad and I weren’t close.

My dad, master violin maker!
My dad, master violin maker!

I know it sounds cliché to say my dad wasn’t around much when I was a kid, but it is true. He emigrated from Germany when he was 26 years old and brought with him an old world craft and old world work ethic. His six-day a week, twelve plus hours a day work schedule as a master craftsman making violins, violas or cellos left little time for the family.

On Sunday’s, his only day off, he would split his day between two families. In the morning he would go to his church, Kingdom Hall, to be with his Jehovah’s Witness brothers and sisters, a religion neither my mother, brother or I subscribed to. In the afternoon he would gather his biological family, us, to go on an outing. A typical outing, I would later label Germantime, consisted of traveling to a museum or zoo in dad’s car while listening to the oompah of German polka music, visit said zoo or museum for an hour or two, and end with a visit to his favorite German café for coffee and pastries. Germantime was the only time I felt we were a happy, loving family.

Through my adolescence the Jehovah’s Witness family got more and more of dad’s free time. I was left feeling he wanted to be with them more than with us. When dad was home it wasn’t pleasant. My mom would vent her frustrations with having to work, take care of the kids and do all the chores, while he was with his JW family, always leading to arguments. If that wasn’t bad enough, dad would nag me – telling me to wear more dresses like a “good German girl,” and to stop wearing those “awful American blue jeans” or to remove purple nail polish from my freshly polished, sophomore in high school, nails. I didn’t think an absent father had the authority to tell his child what to do.

My heart grew hard towards him. The sadness of a little girl wanting to be hugged and kissed by her dad, evolved into resentment and anger of a teenager not wanting him around. Now as a college graduate, I still had my issues with dad, but I couldn’t be too disagreeable since he offered to help me move away from home and towards a new life. Renting a moving van was economically out of the question and I had too much stuff to neatly put in a box and send by mail. I just hoped we could get to California peacefully.

Dad unplugging blue bullet, he was charging her batteries...
Dad unplugging blue bullet, he was charging her batteries…

My other biggest fear was blue bullet would break down, stranding us in the middle of the desert. On the day we were set to leave, my fears were validated when I saw dad’s latest experiment in the back of the car.

“Dad, Why are there two batteries behind the drivers seat with wires leading under the seat?”

“Just as a precaution.” He assured me, his balding head dripping with perspiration from packing the car while wearing thick corduroy pants and a wool sweater on a late summer day. His old world aesthetic discouraging him from ever wearing shorts and a t-shirt. “The car battery sometimes doesn’t recharge and I want to make sure we don’t get stuck.”

“Is the alternator going out?” I asked, just having learned what an alternator does from a friend whose car battery wouldn’t keep a charge.

“I don’t think so.” He said with a tone of certainty, accentuated by his deep German accent. “I brought the car to the mechanic and they said the alternator was fine.”

Blue Bullet and a road trip with dad was my only option. I had to trust that together we would get to California, safely, without too many unplanned adventures and without arguing.

Off we go!
Wish us luck!

Note: This is an excerpt of a personal essay I have been working off and on since 2012- to hopefully be submitted to an online publication. I told dad about the story before he passed away in 2013, he mentioned how much he loved that trip and the time we had together. I hope to share the whole story of this trip one day! Happy Father’s Day! 🙂

Cruising near Cuba

On December 17th, 2014, I was on a cruise ship, sailing to within four miles of the coast of Cuba.Heading to the Windward Passage

I was on a cruise with my mother, my husband and best friend from high school. We just left the Bahamas and were on our way to Ocho Rios Jamaica. I knew the ship would have to travel  through the Windward Passage between Cuba and Haiti to reach Jamaica directly south of Cuba, but I didn’t know how close.

After lunch, while walking laps on the Promenade deck, I thought I saw land. I went to my stateroom to find our latest location, we were close to the Eastern-most tip of Cuba, Punta Maisí.

Our rickety taxi, a Russian made Lada.
Our rickety taxi, a Russian made Lada.

I was familiar with Punta Maisí because it was a place my mother wanted to visit during our trip to Cuba in 2010. Instead we stayed in Baracoa, about 39 miles away. We learned the roads out to the point were really muddy and with potholes large enough to wreck the already battered Lada sedan of our hired driver.

Perhaps now, while cruising along her shores aboard the luxurious MS NOORDAM, we would be able to see the famous lighthouse at Punta Maisí. Her decks providing us with a sturdy platform to view what we couldn’t get to on land.

I spent the day on deck squinting my eyes to see if I could see something I could recognize, I was hoping to see El Yunque – the famous geologic feature in Baracoa that purportedly led Columbus to Cuba’s shores in 1511. Clouds draped the coastline. I imagined I saw the silhouette of mountains.

If you squint your eyes you can see land in the distance.
If you squint your eyes you can see land in the distance.

The winter sun was low on the horizon, the fluffy tropical white clouds played tricks with my eyes, but finally as if commanded by my desire to see land, a slight wind picked up and – Land Ho!

My heart filled with pride of seeing my mother’s land, my eyes welled with tears, as if I was seeing a long dead relative, coming back for a brief visit. Cuba!

I continued my laps around the Promenade deck as our ship sailed even closer to Cuba’s shores. Each trip I announced to a clueless, yet curious, fellow passenger who was wondering what land we were passing. “That my friend is the most beautiful island in the world! Cuba!” I was proud of my ancestor’s land, despite her political history, it is a place of amazing natural history and made up of a resilient people.

A tiny white line in the middle of the image - is the lighthouse.
A tiny white line in the middle of the image – is the lighthouse.

The land came closer into view and upon checking our location again, about an hour later, I saw we were only miles off her coast, precisely off Punta Maisí. I squinted some more and thought I saw a lighthouse. I used my Iphone 4s camera to zoom in and steadied my arms on the deck railing. I needed another miracle from the clouds and the wind. My eyes played tricks on me, I thought I could see a small white blip in the distance. I took several images, not really knowing what I was taking a photo of. But on some level, I knew it had to be the lighthouse at Maisí.

IMG_4906_2When I got home after the cruise, I looked at all my photos and did a few searches on Google to determine that yes what I saw was Punta Maisí.

We continued to cruise past Cuba until nightfall. When lights onshore, made me wonder, again, where we were. I wondered if we were near Santiago de Cuba. I thought the lights I saw were from El Morro, the Spanish fort at the mouth of Santiago harbor. But when I looked at our location on the ship’s monitor, we were to the east.

Nighttime location when I saw lights onshore.
Nighttime location when I saw lights onshore.

I went back on deck and watched the blinking lights of what I thought would have been the runway at Santiago’s airport, the airport my mother and I flew into back in 2010, an airport slightly east of El Morro. My mind was made up, that was Santiago. Then, I saw more flashing lights, to the west of the “runway” past a dark area. I didn’t remember anything on the other side of Santiago’s harbor mouth. Then it came to me. That must be the mouth of Guantanamo Bay and the lights are from the U.S. naval base. I stood there staring into the darkness, imagining the large natural harbor of that bay, thinking about how one of my great-uncles was killed while trying to swim towards freedom and remembering my visit to the town of Guantanamo, in 2010, the place where my mother was born. Then, I had a vision.

“I can imagine our cruise ship sailing into port here.” I blurted to my husband, stunned by the break in silence.

I learned the next day, December 18th, that my vision may one day be a reality, Obama had announced his plans to reestablish relations with Cuba. A future cruise originating in the U.S., could possibly include Cuba on its itinerary. It will be a fabulous economic opportunity for the people of Cuba and an opportunity for cultural exchange for both Cubans and Americans.

Note: After several months of reading a bunch of articles about travel to Cuba, I read about an entrepreneur from Canada who has already established a cruise around Cuba. Wanna go?!